Family members gather along the base shoreline to watch the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan return to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.

Family members gather along the base shoreline to watch the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan return to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The USS Ronald Reagan steamed into Tokyo Bay on Sunday morning, in time for Thanksgiving, concluding what may be the ship’s final deployment from Japan.

The aircraft carrier arrived at its homeport, where it was greeted by families standing at the base’s northern shore and lining its pier.

“Our Sailors have more than earned their time back home,” this ship’s skipper, Capt. Daryle Cardone, said in a Sunday news release. “In addition to time with loved ones, their time in port is a chance to invest in the incredibly valuable partnership we have with the Japanese people. We are thankful for our relationship and we will continue to forge those bonds, whether at sea or ashore.”

Media were not invited to cover the carrier’s arrival.

The Ronald Reagan was accompanied by two of its escorts, the guided-missile cruiser USS Robert Smalls and guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta, Task Force 70 spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Seth Koenig told Stars and Stripes by email Sunday

“USS Ronald Reagan and the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group completed a very successful 2023 deployment, during which we continued to greatly strengthen relationships and interoperability with partners and allies in support of our shared goals of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Koenig said in the email.

The carrier began its patrol May 23 and returned to Yokosuka on Aug. 25 for a mid-deployment stop. It left Yokosuka again on Sept. 29 after several rescheduled departure dates that added up to an 11-day delay. The U.S. 7th Fleet at the time declined to comment on the nature of the hold-up.

Back at sea, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group immediately made its way to South Korea, where it joined the South Korean destroyer ROKS Yulgok Yi I and the Japanese helicopter carrier JS Hyuga for a two-day, anti-piracy exercise near Jeju Island on Oct. 9.

The carrier visited Manila between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1. It welcomed Philippine government officials and guests for tours, while sailors visited local attractions and took part in community relations events such as a visit to the Helping Hands Orphanage.

Next, the Ronald Reagan met up with the USS Carl Vinson and the JS Hyuga in the Philippine Sea for a multi-carrier exercise Nov. 4-8 that included sorties by F-18 Super Hornet and F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, ship maneuvers and maritime strike drills.

The Ronald Reagan’s return on Sunday likely represents the final chapter for the ship’s eight years at Yokosuka before it relocates for scheduled maintenance at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash.

The Navy announced April 28 that the carrier USS George Washington will replace the Ronald Reagan as the centerpiece of the 7th Fleet’s carrier strike group sometime next year, although an exact date has not been disclosed.

There are no updates on when the swap will actually take place, Koenig wrote Sunday. He said he could not discuss whether the Ronald Reagan would deploy again before the George Washington’s arrival but said the Ronald Reagan “is in Yokosuka and remains mission ready at this time.”

The George Washington, homeported at Newport News, Va., was deployed to the 7th Fleet from 2008 to 2015, when it was relieved by the Ronald Reagan.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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